As revealed last February by the Salford Star (see here), there is now a formal attempt to move the two iconic blue cranes out of Salford Quays, and plonk them at the end of the M602 as part of a £3million MediaCityUK roundabout tart-up.
If the Highways Agency objects to the re-location, or repair costs to the cranes go above budget, they could well be scrapped altogether. Indeed, there was a move in June 2009 to have the structures - Grade A listed on the Local List of Buildings Structures and Features of Archaeological, Architectural or Historic Interest - permanently `recycled'.
The old cranes, which were operational from 1966 at Dock 6 on the Quays, were moved to their current site in 1988 and basically left to rot until four years ago when bits of safety railings and ladders were so corroded they were removed to stop them falling on the heads of passing people.
Salford Council neglected its heritage and is now having to cope with the fall-out. Its own report states that "There is clear evidence of the lack of maintenance by the city over the period of time that the cranes have been located in their current position".
In 2007 Salford Council considered scrapping the cranes altogether, or retaining one and scrapping the other, or giving them to the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. But it was decided to repair them and keep them at the current location on Ontario Basin because they were considered to be an "important local landmark" and "represent an important link with the heritage and history of Salford Quays".
Now, the Council is stating that the cranes can't be kept at Ontario Basin because of "difficulties regarding repair and future maintenance" and have to be moved.
Given that Peel Holdings own most of the old docks, now to be MediaCityUK, the only other site the Council has is at the front of the Lowry Outlet Mall. This option would "ensure that the cranes are retained in a location that is appropriate in terms of demonstrating their historic relationship with the Quays". But it was rejected because it might spoil the view for residents of the posh new flats. Or as the Council puts it, "The location of the cranes would detract from the local vista as one leaves the Lowry Outlet Mall and would spoil the open aspect. Although the cranes are symbolic of the past history of the Quays, they would increase the sense of clutter at this location."
It also states that the historic cranes would cause "Disruption to rhythm of the high quality boulevard currently in place" and "Disruption to nearby residents and businesses in terms of noise/dust during maintenance operations and impact on views likely to lead to objections".
Instead, the only Council option is to move the cranes to the roundabout at the end of the M602, although "This location is not ideal in terms of demonstrating the cranes' historic relationship with the Quays".
The £75,000 plinths to mount the cranes at the roundabout have already been paid for by the NWDA, and there's around £647,000 in the kitty from previous years to sort out the removal and repair of the structures. However, should costs exceed this sum there is a `medium risk' that the cranes could still be scrapped.
There's also a `medium risk' that the Highways Agency will object to the roundabout relocation which, a Council report states, "would require officers to identify an alternative site, which, in light of previous difficulties in identifying suitable sites, may mean that the option to scrap the cranes must be revisited".
The two blue cranes are almost the last remnant of the former Docks as Salford's history is being wiped away.
* The Lowry, as lead body for the Salford Quays Consortium, was recently awarded £424,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for its `Unlocking The Quays' project, a "community-led, activities project to improve interpretation and increase access to the history of Salford Quays".
£175,000 was paid to five artists to provide public art works to commemorate the history of the Docks. None of the five artists, paid £35,000 each, was actually from Salford. The final artworks appear to consist of a bench in the shape of a number 9 (for Dock 9); an `integrated seating and built in floor display' taking `inspiration from the Ship Canal'; stainless steel blades, representing `tales of bizarre animals and plant life' from the docks; and armless sculptures of women, representing `engineering and radio waves'.
The fifth sculpture of union cards, representing the struggles of dock workers, will actually be sited in Trafford, rather than in Salford. One local participant in the project whose family worked on the docks wrote to Salford Star earlier this year stating… "not one of the artists was from Salford, and to be honest, all but one of the designs were pretty crap. They showed no real knowledge of the area, or the dockers, or the way of life…"
On the removal of the cranes from Salford Quays, Cllr Derek Antrobus, Lead Member for Planning, says…
"Salford is a city of history and tradition, but is also a city that embraces change, as evidenced by the evolution of Salford Quays from docklands to a high quality, award winning residential and business destination. While the transformation of the Salford Quays area continues apace, with the initial phase of MediaCityUK almost complete, the council recognises the need to protect and respect its important heritage assets. The opportunity to relocate the cranes to sit within the modern Quays Gateway scheme encapsulates the city's eagerness to look towards the future, whilst paying respect to its historic roots".